George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy in life: Being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and, as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
1. Think about your legacy.
Imagine representatives from your family, your workplace, your friends, and your community offering a eulogy for your life. What do you think they would say? Now imagine what you would like them to say. What you’d like them to say can help you understand your purpose.
2. Understand your place in the universe.We discover purpose by aligning ourselves with God rather than trying to align God with ourselves.
The following quote comes from Father Cavanaugh in Rudy (1983): “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.” We discover purpose by aligning ourselves with God rather than trying to align God with ourselves.
3. Learn to listen.
Simply paying attention is a huge step in moving from aimlessness toward purpose. That includes listening to our spouses, our children, ourselves, and all the wisdom that surrounds us.
4. Study the lives of great people.
Who do you admire? Read about the lives of men you respect. If you know them, ask questions about how they found their purpose.
5. Mentor a kid.
Helping young people outside our families can help us understand our purpose at home. Find out more through city and county recreation programs, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, your local school, church, or YMCA.
6. Shut off the trash valve.
Even as you tune in to the witness of people you admire, at the same time shut off the valve to the trash. It’s hard to discover purpose when we are surrounded by the noise of the vapid, the narcissist, the aimless, or the lost who don’t influence us in good ways.
7. Take an inventory and learn your unique skill-set.
Sometimes we’re not aware of our own gifts. Many schools, colleges, and places of worship have developed tools to connect people with their talents and proclivities. Take inventory and then take the courageous step of living into your abilities.
8. Think of others ahead of yourself.
When we take our gifts and use them to benefit those around us (family, friends, community), it’s easier to find a sense of purpose through service.
9. Do what brings you joy.
“Find the place where your great passion meets the world’s great need.” -Frederick Buechner
If we pay attention to what brings us joy, and then find where the practice of our joy specifically meets the needs of other people, then we will find purpose in the same place.
Sometimes, we simply don’t know something is our purpose until we try it. If we wait around to “find ourselves,” we waste precious time that could be used to make the world a better place. To that extent, we already know our purpose.
Sound off: Have you found your purpose? If so, how did you find it?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think your purpose in life is? Why?”